When you encounter a police officer, most of the questions he asks, you are not required to answer. This post is going to focus on the few questions that you need to answer. The rules vary a little from state to state, but the same general rules apply. In almost every state, including Utah, you need to provide police with your name and identification if you are involved in a traffic stop. You also need to provide proof of insurance. You can invoke your right to silence for all other questions, and if you haven’t been formally arrested police are not going to volunteer that you can remain silent.
Many states, including Utah, also have what are called “stop and identify” laws. If you are found loitering, or if an officer has reasonable suspicion that you are in the process of committing a crime, the officer may demand your name. If you are in one of the states with a stop and identify law, you are required to truthfully answer. Either refusing to answer or lying to the officer can lead to criminal punishment.
The Supreme Court has not recognized any other situations where the government can require citizens to answer police questions. After an officer’s initial questions establishing your identity, you should invoke your right to silence.
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